Top D.C. Democrat wants national party’s help against David Catania


Anita Bonds says it’s time for the national Democrats. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

Updated 6:15 p.m. with DNC comment

In a city where three out of four registered voters are Democrats, the District’s Democratic party apparatus rarely gets much of a workout in general election contests. But this year could be different, with Democratic mayoral nominee Muriel E. Bowser facing an energetic and potentially well-financed challenge from fellow D.C. Council member David A. Catania.

The challenge is serious enough that the city’s top Democratic party official said Wednesday that she plans to ask the Democratic National Committee to put serious resources into the local party to fend off Catania (I-At Large).

“We’re asking them to put resources in here,” said Anita D. Bonds, chairman of the D.C. Democratic State Committee and herself an at-large council member. “This is the first time we’ve ever had a challenge, you know, from a non-Democrat. … We’re going to be talking about thousands, whatever it takes.”

Speaking after a Bowser news conference where the nominee appealed for Democratic solidarity, Bonds said she has already had informal discussions with party leaders about the potential need for national party help ahead of the Nov. 4 general election. Bowser’s campaign chairman, Bill Lightfoot, told Bonds at the news conference that DNC Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz had sent a missive to the Bowser campaign after her victory assuring it of the party’s endorsement.

“That’s the value of being a party member,” Bonds said. “You can call on your colleagues across the country, and we’re going to use all that’s available to us. This a serious effort.”

Asked whether a District mayoral race would represent an appropriate use of national funds in a congressional mid-term election year, DNC spokesman Mo Elleithee said the national party is “solidly behind Muriel.”

“Democrats are united behind her, and we’re going to do whatever we can to help make sure she’s our next mayor,” he said in an e-mail.

Catania’s campaign manager, Ben Young, said Wednesday that an appeal for national assistance “sounds like a campaign that is worried.”

“The local political establishment’s hold on the city government is about dislodged,” Young said. “Yesterday’s turnout was all you needed to know. They’re not buying it anymore. They’re staying at home.”

He added that Catania expects to attract the support of “high-profile Democrats” (consultant and pundit Hilary Rosen is among the first) and that it would be an “odd position” for the DNC to oppose a candidate with a strong record on same-sex marriage, health insurance coverage and other Democratic-oriented issues.

Said Bonds, who is planning a Democratic “unity breakfast” Friday for Bowser: “It doesn’t sound like I’m scared. It sounds like we’re bold and determined, and we’re going to be working to make this a reality.”

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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